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'He had the life of a rockstar'

Roei Sadan, Israeli who biked 66,000 km around world, dies after hit by bus

Veteran extreme adventure athlete, who made stunning recovery from 500-meter fall in 2015, was struck while cycling near his home; ‘Living the dream was his motto,’ says his friend

  • Israeli cyclist Roei Sadan with friends and family members in the Old City of Jerusalem, September 14, 2011, after completing a worldwide bike tour that spanned 1,458 days, 42 countries, 6 continents and 66,000 kilometers. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
    Israeli cyclist Roei Sadan with friends and family members in the Old City of Jerusalem, September 14, 2011, after completing a worldwide bike tour that spanned 1,458 days, 42 countries, 6 continents and 66,000 kilometers. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
  • Sadan often acted as an informal Israeli ambassador in remote corners of the world on his journey. (Courtesy Roei Sadan)
    Sadan often acted as an informal Israeli ambassador in remote corners of the world on his journey. (Courtesy Roei Sadan)
  • Sadan with friends in the hospital during his 2015 recovery. (Courtesy Roei Sadan)
    Sadan with friends in the hospital during his 2015 recovery. (Courtesy Roei Sadan)
  • Sadan in Kenya with Masai tribe members during his round-the-world bike journey from 2007 to 2011. (Courtesy Roei Sadan)
    Sadan in Kenya with Masai tribe members during his round-the-world bike journey from 2007 to 2011. (Courtesy Roei Sadan)
  • Sadan biked 66,000 km through 42 countries over five years on his round-the-world journey. (courtesy Roei Sadan)
    Sadan biked 66,000 km through 42 countries over five years on his round-the-world journey. (courtesy Roei Sadan)
  • Roei Sadan, 34, upon arrival at Tel HaShomer hospital in August and leaving the rehabilitation unit on February 9, 2016. (courtesy Roei Sadan)
    Roei Sadan, 34, upon arrival at Tel HaShomer hospital in August and leaving the rehabilitation unit on February 9, 2016. (courtesy Roei Sadan)
  • Sadan crossing the salt flats on Emuna, his blue and white Thorn hybrid bike, during his round-the-world trip from 2007 to 2011 (courtesy Roei Sadan).
    Sadan crossing the salt flats on Emuna, his blue and white Thorn hybrid bike, during his round-the-world trip from 2007 to 2011 (courtesy Roei Sadan).

Israeli extreme adventure athlete Roei “Jinji” Sadan, who gained fame by spending five years biking 66,000 kilometers (41,010 miles) around the world and later made an unlikely recovery from a 500-meter fall, died Friday at age 39 after being hit by a bus near his home earlier this week.

Sadan’s family has decided to donate his organs. The funeral will be held on Sunday.

Sadan had been riding his bike near the entrance to Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel, where he was living, when a United Tours bus hit him at about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Medics found Sadan unconscious with severe injuries and without vital signs. After resuscitation efforts restored his pulse, he was taken to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, sedated and on a breathing machine. After doctors fought to save his life for two days, the hospital said Friday that he had been pronounced dead.

Israeli cyclist Roei Sadan in Jerusalem, September 14, 2011, after completing a worldwide bike tour that spanned 1458 days, 42 countries, 6 continents and 66,000 kilometers. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

“He was a charming person,” Sadan’s friend, Yogev, told Channel 12 news. “Living the dream was his motto. He had the life of a rockstar, it was intense. He was killed in the middle of uphill training, which simulates climbing Mount Everest by bike. It wasn’t hard for him, he was now in top form.”

From 2007 to 2011, Sadan biked over mountains and through valleys, across deserts and ice fields in 42 countries on six continents.

The worldwide bicycle route took him from the northernmost point of Alaska down the entire west coast of North, Central and South America, then from the tip of South Africa to Ethiopia and a two-week break in Israel. He then cycled across Europe from Spain to Istanbul, across Turkey through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to a tour across China the long way, and a final four months in Australia along the coast, where he biked for two weeks on a tandem with blind Israeli biker Orly Tal.

Along the way, he was one of Israel’s farthest-reaching informal ambassadors, bringing his blue-and-white hybrid Thorn bike named Emuna (“faith” in Hebrew), bedecked with an Israeli flag fluttering behind, to corners of Australia’s Outback, Africa’s deserts and Central America’s jungles that had never seen an Israeli before.

He spoke at schools, embassies, Jewish communities and synagogues, encouraging his audiences to follow their dreams. Afterwards, he’d always get back on Emuna and bike off toward the horizon, alone.

In 2015, Sadan slipped on a rock on his way down after climbing the 6,100-meter (20,000-foot) Stok Kangri mountain in northern India with a friend. He plummeted hundreds of meters, his body bouncing off of rocks like a rag doll.

He was miraculously caught by a group of climbers who happened to be climbing below Sadan and his friends. When they saw a body falling down the side of the mountain, they dug their ice axes into the snow and absorbed the force of Sadan’s fall with their bodies and then provided him with oxygen until a helicopter rescued him.

He was eventually taken to a hospital in Israel, where he fell into a coma for more than a month.

“The doctor told my parents, due to the brain injury I could return to be like the old Roei or I could be a vegetable, or anything in between that,” Sadan told The Times of Israel in 2016.

Despite suffering a diffuse brain injury (damage to the brain over a wide area, not a specific spot), as well as many other injuries, Sadan ended up leaving the hospital six months later and returning to riding his bike.

His injury had caused him to become more dependent on others, suffering from weakness on his left side, chronic fatigue and impaired short-term memory.

This week’s accident put an end to his years-long path to recovery.

Sadan is survived by his parents and brother.

Culture and Sports Minister Chili Tropper said in a statement that he was “pained by the passing of Roei ‘Jinji’ Sadan, a man of sports and adventure with every fiber of his being. Roei was an inspiring Israeli. He served us well around the world, and mainly showed us that nothing is impossible. May he rest in peace.”

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

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